When COVID 1st started, governors and leaders didn’t know what they were dealing with and so issued models which predicted mass casualties, into the tens of thousands or millions (but the decimation has come in other ways of finances, social/relational ways, schooling, business, livelihood, etc.). They had us preparing for something to rival the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.
The government swooped in to exercise their authority for the common good by limiting gatherings, and many churches voluntarily complied, even though the government never had this authority over the church, according to our constitution.
The shutdown was supposed to be temporary, to flatten the curve, thus the church complied, at least for a time. The church patiently waited to see the prophesied decimation of lives and waited for the “scientific professionals” to give the go-ahead that things are not nearly as bad as projected, but the scores of deaths never came.
The church’s voluntary compliance was initially motivated by “love for neighbor.” But why is it that the 2nd great commandment (to love your neighbor as yourself-Mk 12:31) has been reduced to ‘not spreading the COVID virus while neglecting its many spiritual applications and what is not just healthy for the body, but the soul as well?’ True, biblical love for neighbor takes into account not merely temporal, but also eternal good! Think of the people who have died alone in the hospital, the lonely people in nursing homes who can’t see their friends, the families who haven’t been allowed to have funerals (unless you are a politician), the weddings that people have not been able to enjoy in-person, the educational experience that has been stifled and limited to computer time with no personal interactive discipleship, the scores of people suffering loneliness, depression, spiritual starvation. So tell me how isolation is loving our neighbor, as the Bible informs us of the relational component for which our Creator designed us?! Consider the weak and wounded Christians who are shriveling on the vine?
Further, what about the lost in our community which in this severe time of uncertainty and worry, are scared or unable legally (due to social distancing) come out to hear the ONLY THING that can do them any good—the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Look at the meager infection rates, for this kind of ‘loving my neighbor’ would require us to avoid people at all times, for there’s always a contagion around. I’d submit that what we see in Holy Scripture for an ACTIVE love of neighbor is engaging, being present, showing mercy and compassion, hugging the broken-hearted, walking through the painful events of life beside the suffering (that’s a lot closer than 6’!), it is in person and face to face (without masks, unless it’s your personal conviction). Don’t we see how essential the church is?! A Christian worldview shows us the priority of that which is spiritual, eternal, and soul issues.
Nursing homes have paid the toll the greatest, leaving college campuses spared, but severely stunting the educational experience, as I’ve already noted.
Without minimizing the very reality of the virus, we equally cannot become chicken little about the sky falling, especially in areas like ours in Southern Oregon where there has NEVER been the evidence of devastation (worse than the other diseases, disabilities, and disasters in this Fallen and cursed world).
To be very specific, the Oregon CDC posted (Jan-Jun) a total of 325 ‘COVID’ deaths…that’s a few hundred, not thousands! Further, there have been only 2 in Josephine and 1 in Jackson county. That means that the Oregon rate of COVID death with a population of 4million is .008!!
Consider the massive unemployment rate, abortion, suicide, and other deaths. In contrast to the three deaths in our two counties, there were over 1700 due to natural causes, 60 due to unintended injury, five homicides, and 30 suicides. I wonder how many suicides could be directly linked to the COVID crackdown yet remain unreported and unnoticed? Medical doctors are known to administer drugs that cause the body much harm, as unintentional symptoms, yet they do so because it serves the greater good. In comparison, have excessive COVID protocols caused more damage than the disease? It certainly appears that way.
Also, I personally have seen the deceptive reporting, as I’ve gotten chaplaincy reports daily that give much different numbers than what’s been emphasized by liberal media. Further, I’ve talked with others who have testified of the wrong conclusions (death by another form, though labeled as a COVID case). The numbers that are bolstered still fall far short of deaths by drug overdose, kidney disease, the average flu, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, or Cancer. Let’s get a little more exercise, in righteous anger that is angered by what angers God, over the slaughter of so many young lives in the womb!
And how about the overreach of the government into the Church which has affected us on multiple levels:
- How about the finances that have been affected? It limits in support of ministry and missionaries.
- How about their contradicting of the clear biblical command/right/privilege for the regular assembling publically in corporate worship (Heb 10:24-25; 1 Cor 14:26; 16:2)?
- Singing has been governmentally forbidden in various states in contradiction to Eph 5:19, which I’m glad hasn’t yet affected us here.
Further, I’m concerned about how masking up has reduced our intimate togetherness, not to mention the difficulty of communicating, especially for those of us with severe hearing loss who read lips. I’m personally not convinced of the science behind it, and medical/scientific communities are at odds with each other regarding their effectiveness or lack thereof. And as one who’s lab reports show I’m already holding onto too much carbon-dioxide with my weakened diaphragm, I don’t need the added obstacle of breathing through a mask. And how about the hygiene of it, no smiles to encourage and our loss of personhood with only our eyes showing and with no end in sight any time soon!!
With the distancing and mask orders, wouldn’t that be a violation in principle of the close communion that the New Testament assures us should mark the closeness of fellowship in the Local Body of Christ and is even commanded in the epistles (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26)? Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m NOT advocating literal kissing. But I AM asking us to use a faithful hermeneutic in our study, interpretation, and application of Scripture.
There are some situations or commands in biblical cultural settings that are only partially similar to our own, in which only the principles are transferable. The normal form of greeting in that day was with a kiss, but not so for our Western culture. The timeless truth that is transferred to the church and to be faithfully applied is a Gospel expression of friendliness and love towards others, especially the household of faith. Here in America, that expression is oftentimes a handshake, sometimes accompanied with a hug, and also communicated through warm body language in a smile.
This is a simple plea to lean more into biblical revelation rather than a fallen man’s logic, which is seriously lacking. The Bible is its own authority. As McQuilkin put it in his instructions on hermeneutics (the rules of Bible interpretation), “All Scripture should be received as normative for every person in all societies of all time unless the Bible itself limits the audience….when the Bible clearly gives a command and nowhere else nullifies that command, it must be accepted as the revealed will of God and a mandate to mold our personal and group behavior (our ‘culture’) in the form of this instruction.”
And if you are a science nerd that’s interested in chasing down reports contrary to the standard masking agenda of the media and governmental gurus, perhaps you’d be interested to read “Masks Are Neither Effective Nor Safe: A Summary of the Science.”
So there has been overreach by the government, hampering our rights to worship the Lord according to the dictates of the Word of God. Furthermore, what are we to make of the blatant hypocrisy and double-standard in which the church has now clearly been targeted? What’s been multiplied in several states, including Oregon, is the allowance (and possibly even the encouragement, since there have been no repercussions) of massive, destructive protests without any of the social distancing and masking that has been imposed on the church.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, is the head of the Church, not Caesar, nor any governmental agency. As the head, the part of the body that sees hears, thinks, and decides, He gives the orders that the rest of the body lives by. “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22-23).
NOW is time to lean into elders’ direction, oversight, and shepherding care, as they are Christ’s undershepherds of His Church! We still encourage those susceptible, with compromised immunities, to stay home and take advantage of God’s common grace of technology. But the vast majority of believers should be more concerned to live in faith, not fear. Worship is more needful for the soul, as this is more of a spiritual war, not physical.
After months at home, there is the very real potential now for Christians to get used to being isolated from their congregations, preferring flat-screen services and not aggressively pursuing intimate fellowship with the saints and pursuing participation in worship and service!
CHURCH is absolutely essential in our communities. Dear disciple and follower of Jesus, “you are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-14). We are commanded by our Master to shine, that the scores of unbelievers around us would see our good works and glorify our Father! The health of the saints, spiritually speaking, is at stake. Don’t cower in fear, but follow in obedient trust in our loving Father, as we seek to be faithful in these very strange days.
With all that you are dealing with in the frustrations and the difficulties of this present life in a fallen world, NOW is time you especially need the church’s support. Be sure to meditate on the Romans 14-15 on issues of conscience and how we interact with those we disagree with. Let us be known as those who exude Gospel grace towards those on the other side of the fence from us. Grace and humility are what we each need and are empowered to demonstrate through the indwelling Spirit. Let’s obey the Scriptural injunction to preserve the unity that the Spirit established in the bond of peace (Eph 3:3). There’s enough fighting out in the world, while the community of faith plays by different kingdom rules.
We really don’t know where all of this is going to end, nor what it may cost us in obedience to Christ. There may soon be coming a time for civil disobedience, where we disobey the God-ordained government officials, as they try to force us out of compliance with the Lord. You may desire to pray for a humble and teachable heart and then study the issue in the ethics resources mentioned at the end.
Dear friend and mentor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in southern CA is facing the potential of daily fines of $1k and/or jail time. We don’t know whether the power brokers in government want to make a spectacle of him/them.
I, for one, am thankful that these precious saints have gone to the mat before, like the 10-yr lawsuit case over ministry malpractice that they had won, by God’s grace in 1988. We need to pray for the ongoing court battle there because what is determined there becomes precedence and will most assuredly affect churches around the nation.
There have been great imprisoned saints for obeying/honoring God over man. Recall men like Joseph, John the Baptist, Daniel, Paul, Peter, Jn Bunyan, and the list grows on.
“Christ, Not Caesar, Is Head of the Church: A Biblical Case for the Church’s Duty to Remain Open-Jn MacArthur & GCC elders (found at www.gty.org)
“Questions We Get About the GCC Elders’ Statement”-Phil Johnson (www.teampyroblogspot.com)
“The Coronavirus, Humility, & Civil Disobedience”-Jim Newheiser (www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org)
“When You Trade Freedom For Safety, You Get Neither: A Response to MacArthur’s Critics”-Grayson Gilbert (www.patheos.com)
“Burial, COVID, and the Limits of Submission to Government”-Jesse Johnson (www.thecripplegate.com)
“Developing a Biblical View of Church and State”-John Stead (in Think Biblically! Rediscovering a Christian Worldview-John MacArthur & The Master’s College Faculty)
“Civil Disobedience”-Norman Geisler (in Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, Baker Book House, 1989)
“The Christian and the Secular State”-John/Paul Feinberg (in Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd ed. Crossway, 2010)
 As cited in Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy Zuck, 93.